10 Things International Student Should Know About America

So, you’re thinking about going to study at a university in the US? Great! It’s a fascinating and enormously varied country, with a proud history of top-notch higher education opportunities. We’ve all seen those US college movies, thinking we have a pretty good idea of what to expect when we arrive. However, Hollywood isn’t always the best at reflecting reality – and considering how crazy some of those movies are, it probably isn’t such a bad idea for an international student to know a few things about America. So, here 10 things an international student should know about America:

1. You don’t have to decide what to study right away

In the US, students are should take about five subjects in a semester and then declare a major after that. Often, those subjects may have little or nothing to do with your final major. It’s not surprising to find students majoring in robotics, but taking a “minor” course in German, English literature, mathematics or something completely different on the side.

 2. The first week will be either heaven or hell

The first week of college at the vast majority of US colleges is a chance for students to get to know each other, sign up to clubs, societies and fraternities and attend parties and events held by your college. You’ll be in a whirlwind of disorientation; trying to remember people’s names, keeping up your energy levels and getting lost on campus. Love it or hate it, it’s a rite of passage that seemingly everyone has to go through.

3. Textbooks are crazily expensive

The people producing college textbooks and other reading materials in the US must be laughing all the way to the bank – those things cost an extraordinary amount of money. Luckily, social media groups dedicated to sharing or passing on second-hand textbooks are becoming more common, so you might be able to find some bargains.

4. College sports matter

If you’re from Europe or elsewhere in the world, it’s likely that your school or university sports teams won’t be that much of a big deal – just some friends meeting up to kick a ball around with the neighboring university. In the US, however, college sports are a huge deal. You’ll be expected to support your university teams, go along to matches and stay updated on game results. It’s all part of the experience, and it can be a lot of fun to get involved in. 

5. We love to make small talk.

When someone smiles at you or starts a conversation out of the blue, they are probably just being nice. Unlike many countries where this may be confused for a pickpocketing scheme or something else negative, strangers address each other often in the United States. It’s a very open society you should embrace!

6. Many students have one or more minors.

We can best describe it as small majors. For example, if you are a literature minor, you may take a few upper-division literature classes to satisfy your minor. They are a great way to take some fun classes or boost your resume with something more specific.

7. Annual Increase in international students

According to data from IIE, in 2006-2007, there were roughly 583,000 international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities. This total has gone up every year since. The number of international students in the U.S. first topped 1 million in 2015-2016.

8. More than half of the international students are from Asia

Though the number of students from these countries is growing, the pace has been slowing for the last several years, per IIE data. While China and India send the most, overall, international students in the U.S. hail from more than 200 countries.

Also read: 10 College Majors That Pay You Back

9. Diverse Population

It can be comforting for non-native students to know that most universities around the country have incredibly diverse populations. More than likely, you will be able to find an institution that values diversity. You will probably be able to locate other students from your home country that can help to keep you from getting too homesick.

10. No need to be scared, have fun!

It can always be scary to leave the place you were born and move to a whole different country. But you will get used to it. As mentioned in point 9, you will probably meet a lot of students from your home country and you will feel more like home there too. So, don’t overthink, study hard and don’t forget to have fun while you still can.


University life can be a roller coaster ride. Fun, exciting, scary with a bottle of anxiousness. But it’s a lot easier if you know what to expect and how to react in those situations. So, these were the 10 things which I think every international student should know about America. Have we missed something? If so, please let us know in the comment section!


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